SD-WAN – What, How, and Why It’s Got Your Number
Hi my name is joe reeves and i'm a principal product manager, at, solarwinds. And our guest panelist today, is jim metzler, vice president. At ashton. Metzler. And associates, consulting. And we're joined by patrick, hubbard. Head geek at solarwinds. We'll be talking today, about, software-defined. Wide area, networking. By far the most, popular. Software-defined. Networking. Use case and jim's written, extensively. On this topic. And joins us to provide a broader perspective. Welcome, jim. Joe thank you, for having me here today this to me. Is an extremely. Exciting, topic. Just briefly, joe. I've worked in the wide area networking, field for roughly, 40 years. Studying, as an engineering, manager. For a telco. On high-speed, data services. Then a product manager. For networking, hardware. In the computer, industry. And i ran, the network organization. For two fortune, 500, companies so i'm very invested. In the value, proposition, around the wide area network. But joe if you think back to the year 2000. All this happened, since then. Things like, the iphone. The win has not made, any, fundamental. Change. Since the introduction. Of mpls. Roughly, in the year 2000.. Technology. And business has evolved. Dramatically. So here we are now talking about sd-wan. And joe it's not just some vendor, adding some small, feature. To their existing, product, and saying. New generation. Sd-wan. Software defined when, is right in the middle of major, technology. Trends. Enjoy. Also suggest. That it's just about. Are in the process, of crossing the chasm. For when it's really used primarily, by early adopters. Who don't mind. An immature. Raw, product. To where it's used, by the majority, of organizations. So it's a very important time, to be here and talk about sd-wan. Thanks jim. Patrick i know you've been tracking. Uh various, software-defined. Uh. Technologies. Sdx, technologies, can you talk a little bit about. Your background, and perspective. Yeah sure i mean i think i've said this before at the white camp but um, i i started as developer. You know, decades ago and actually, ended up going to it, because i looked at it and said. We could bring automation, to this and remove a lot of toil and, it wasn't really. There in the sort of late 90s, and so, i have always had, an interest, in automating, things and so, uh software. Actuated, infrastructure. Really exciting and sd, sd, sdn. Back in the open flow days i was really excited because that was a standard that was actually coming from network engineers, coming from operations, and it was to solve. This problem of how do you tame, ever more, uh, complex, networks, wan was a part of it with but sdn, was going to be a much bigger thing and the learning curve was steeper, and he kind of needed to be a developer. But sd-wan. Is really. A. First, and solid, entry into this, where network engineers are able to solve a lot of problems, with it and, it is. Demonstrating, especially. For customers, that are a part of our users who are part of our user community. Where they are seeing a lot of success with it so i'm really excited, about sd-wan. As a bellwether, for adoption. Of larger, and more comprehensive. Automation, especially for networks. So, looking across the landscape, of software-defined, networking. Solutions. What do you think is, driving. The rapid adoption, the explosive. Growth. Of. Sc wan, for, enterprise, and. Small and medium business customers. Jim let's start with you. Well jill let's put explosive. In a context, we've been talking about sd-wan. Now for. Two three plus years. And we're just now crossing, the chasm. And i think, that that adoption. Was heightened by the fact as patrick was saying we've been talking about sdn, for a while. So some of the, implicit, concepts, of separation. Of control, and forwarding. Have been pretty well as understood. Bottom line here enterprises. Are somewhat, cautious, to adopt a new technology. But joe i'm not really disagreeing, with you i'm thinking two or three years to get where we are has been a fast period of time. And i think it's a fast period of time, because, software-defined. Wins, do offer. A number of potential, advantages. But i want to emphasize, there are over, 60, providers. Of sd-wan. Products and services, today. And the offerings, really vary. So in some sense. There's no such thing as sd-wan. It all does the following, 10 things. It varies. To a large, degree. Based on your provider. But again, there's been no changes since 2000. A lot's happened, business and technology. Wise, this is right, in the thrust. Of technology. Evaluation. And it offers a variety, of benefits. Which by now. There are actual, proof points, and not just marketeers. Saying, look at my powerpoint, slides. Patrick what do you hear when you talk to uh the solo wins, customer, community. Yeah i mean, obviously, you know all you have to do is just search for sd-wan, on the in thwack and you'll find a lot of conversations, about it, um i mentioned that you know we're seeing, uh customers have a lot of success, especially.
When You look at 2020, sort of a part of the surveys that we've done. Those customers, who have been best able to adapt especially, for their wins. Um you know during crisis have. A lot of them, already had adopted, sd-wan, technology, and were able to expand it so they already learned a lot about, how it worked and the business could see its usefulness. But i think generally hit on something interesting there is that we've been talking about it for a really long time, and, it this. This, huge increase in interest in the last two or three years. Really, is. Uh, more important than it might seem because if you think about it. Although the wan hasn't changed in a very long time i mean let's don't even talk about you know, frame relay back in, back in the day but, but, the wan, is one of the most critical pieces of infrastructure. For for businesses, especially. Larger businesses, right it is how it is the lifeblood, of how they connect to everything, if you look at businesses that are going all cloud. They are still doing express routes and everything else so the win, is more important than it's ever been which means, there's a lot of risk associated, with changes that could uh, making changes to it, is a lot more people interested, in it now and sort of it's the way it's supposed to work and so the fact that we're seeing customers. Not only be successful, with it and get excited about it but clearly, they are overcoming. Some. Concern. Or the, traditional, worries about risk, of, changing. Uh technologies, that are part of the fundamental, fabric of, of the business or certainly of the network, that to me might be the most important thing is that it has, transcended. That, well it sounds cool and maybe it's useful to it's useful enough to actually implement. Jim what do you think about the. Critical, mass, of. Mpls. Users. Really setting us up, for. This migration, into. Sd-wan. Whenever, a new technology. Begins, to be discussed. There's all kinds of hyperbole. That surrounds, it. And when sd-wan. Was first discussed. There's going to be an mpls, killer. Oh yes deploy, sd-wan. You'll save 90-95. Of your transmission, budget, what else do you want to know. Everything, goes over the internet. Well no surprise at all that hasn't, happened. But we're seeing joe. So with the dynamic, load balancing. Say across mpls. And the internet. You get to say hey there are aspects. Of the internet that i really like. It's low cost, and it's easy to get deploy. Either new uh functionality. Or add functionality. But the stuff i don't like like security. And you can look at mpls. And it's just the opposite. So this dynamic. Load balancing, says, let me get the best, of both of those services. And try to minimize, the worst. So i think this real potential, just from that perspective. No one's throwing up. You'll always find some poster child some friend will say oh here's a company, and they took out all all their mpls, and they survived. But that is not what people are doing. Are they, some people are removing, some absolutely. But mostly, doing it cautiously, patrick was incredibly, correct, people are risk adverse, i.t, means you're risk adverse. Because if you can't close the books at the end of the quarter, that's a very bad thing. Okay so people, even if those are interested, in removing, mpls. We're going to start, pretty much of the status quo. Shake out the system. See the kind of performance, they get, and then decide, if they're going into.
A, Stay the way they are, b, take off some mpls. Or c stay the way they are but future, transmission. Needs, would be with the internet. Three nice options. People will feel their way out and see how well the system responds. That that's absolutely true, and we're seeing, that as a component of those conversations, about sd-wan. Is that. You know not all data. Has the same value, and not all network paths have the same value so a big part of that, uh split decision making about routing and appropriateness. Of. Transport, method. Goes to analyzing. What you expect to do with the data, and that means you're looking at the business to try to figure out what's really, what data and what network, needs have higher or lower business value, and that's where you can take advantage of low-cost, services. Like. Sd-wan, so for example over the internet i'm doing file share, don't care, it will get there eventually, it's if it's chunked up it's tcp, i don't care, but if it's something where it's low latency, or it's like trading and some other things that. Really need to have a particularly, dedicated, and guaranteed, bandwidth, you might want to go ahead and pay a little bit more and stay on an mpls, network for that, so that idea of traffic segmentation. Being, a part, of, all of those conversations, about network is really exciting. We've. Enjoyed. The ability with monitoring. Tools, for quite some time to, pick up all of the information, that we need, modeled, through. Snmp, objects. Vendors have been. Fairly, consistent. About, instrumenting. Their. Devices. The devices, incorporate, both. Data plane and control, plane and we've been able to go. Kind of device, by device, or element by element and get all of the information, that we need for monitoring. Sdn, technologies. Sd-wan, in particular. Changes, the game. By, centralizing. Control. At the controller. And then providing. A, split, of information, between the controller. And, the edge devices. And so all of a sudden we're faced with this challenge. Of. Representing, the state of the fabric. Rather than the individual. Elements. How do you guys see, the requirements. For monitoring, tools, evolving, over time, with the introduction, of sd-wan. Joe before i really drove into that. I want to. Use a certain phrase that gets used around sd-wan. In two different ways. The phrase. Dynamic. Load balancing, of traffic over multiple links. Now joe is that good news of bad news. And the answer is yes. If you're interested, in performance, or availability. That's really wonderful. I can dynamically. Load balance. Over multiple, links, dynamic, is a great word. If you are troubleshooting. It may mean you don't know what path, that traffic, took. So try troubleshooting. It. Okay so some fundamental. Problems. Being introduced. By the advantages. Provided, by sd-wan. Reason i say those things joe, is the monitor and management, challenges, now are not just around the wind. It's the wind connected. Very tightly. Through policy, and security, etc, to the land. To the rest of the enterprise. And gartner has this new phrase sassy. Which basically, says we're going to very, tightly. Integrate. The wind, and security. So, is that now, a, management, challenge for the network. Or a management, challenge for a combined. Security. Network and the answer is yes. Okay again, there's no such thing as sd-wan, it means a whole variety of things, and the challenges, and opportunities. Vary accordingly. Yeah. That's absolutely true and when you look at you know solarwinds, product evolution, over the years, um. They introduced, uh. Bgp. Awareness. Into the network management products early to solve that problem of where is this phantom route coming from right it's sort of a visualization, tool as much as anything else for troubleshooting, it's like if i'm routing traffic off in an unexpected. Way, that's being informed by, bgp, i need to know what that is and then later, that multi-path. Network problem of there's a problem, it's outside your firewall but it's still going to come to your help desk one segment, one particular route doesn't work that drove netpath. But i think the the thing that's really. Different here and to your point about that tight coupling is the problem that we keep trying to solve over and over again, as an industry, is that we're separating, forwarding and control.
And We're adding, not to say observability, but let's just say visibility. Um, to something that, should be, a. Composable. Deterministic. Tool, like i'm used to i go in i set up my config inside my router off the command line, that the config, that i have created, is the way that the routing is going to happen you know with some expectations. But by separating, that control plane from the routing plane. Now it may not be deterministic, and so the troubleshooting, is not so much, the configuration, that i have is it working i can do that i can use. I can use flow, traffic analysis, and i can i can use uh qos, and other things to actually figure out where i intend it to go, but when it breaks, you're still back to that old troubleshooting. Of the physical layer with something, on top of it whether, it's, sd-wan, built into one of those 16 vendor solutions, or it's an overlay controller, from, sd, sdn. But, that, trying to figure out when it breaks. When the unknown is going on you're going from that high level of, this is composable. It should just work to it isn't working and then you're back into the plumbing, but now you're also trying to debug the plumbing of the automation, and that's, that i think is a big part of where that hesitancy, is, we have a, set of challenges, around the the infrastructure. But. Um. A new set of challenges, around overlays, that tightly integrate. Elements of the infrastructure, that traditionally, have been, separated, and may be looked after by separate parts of the organization. Jim are you finding that. These kinds of challenges, introduce organizational. Problems for your clients as well. Most it organizations, that i work with. Are really good at technology. And they've got people that have more certifications. Than you can imagine, in. Technology. When it comes to process. Change. When it comes to, organizational. Change. Not so much. Enjoy, you can take a look at an old chart. And it will tell you who reports, to whom and that kind of stuff it doesn't tell you really. How information, flows to the organization. How processes, occur. As we're now changing, things let's look at the changes. One more centralized. Control. That's a very good thing and it takes away the need to touch each device.
But It now puts more pressure on those policies, than we're implementing whether it's security, or qos, because it goes everywhere, quickly, okay that's a simple one. Okay, the fact that we are now making tighter integration, with security. With the land we're breaking, down. The organizational. Barriers. That those organizational. Charts that i mentioned screen. But i'm not seeing, joe, regrettably. A lot of my clients. Spending, time rethinking. What this means. And more importantly. Thinking, forward a year or two or three. And saying what do we need in the organization. A few years from now we're going to need fewer skills. Obviously around the task for, automating. Patrick was incredibly, right on and saying, you know to really get the advantage, of sd-wan. You have to know what you're doing, what is this traffic, how important is it to the business. And again if we're tying. The win with security. We need more cross-functional. Knowledge so, organizations. Need to begin, to move away i'm not saying move away today or tomorrow. A lot of the tasks they used to do. Have more relationships. With the business. More relationships, with other i.t, organizations. So when land and when come together, when, the uh win and security, come together. You don't have a meeting with two groups that speak entirely, different languages, so there's some real opportunities. There joe, and again i'm not trying to say if you don't get that done the next six months. You're gonna have real problems. But you need to have a plan for it and i have to admit most of my clients, don't. I i, really like the that, that idea, um because. Uh, uh microsoft, united last year i had a customer come up and we were talking about it and he said hey we've adopted, sewan and i said well what was the driver. And he said uh working with uh secops. And i said, what do you mean and he said, well, it made it easy because we were able to, what he basically was describing, was, moving security, left of the config, right that governance. Uh and also like uh. Operational, cost expectation, and throttling, all the rest of it became, part of that conversation.
About What you were trying to achieve, in terms of networking. So that from the beginning. It got those teams working together, better and so they actually were saying hey instead of you know that usual model where, first you put the thing on the network, and then you get it working, and then you try to get flow set up and then oh yeah we need to secure this and then you're you know you have either some sort of overlay, or whatever that process, is, it does sd-wan, does tend to make it much easier, to, entrain. Security, policy, or operational, policy. Any type of governance. Into the definitions, of what you're trying to achieve in terms of routing. So that you're, one, making, decisions, at the time of configuration. So whether it's policy scanning or approval or whatever else instead of doing it later, but also it just gets people thinking of, i'm going to open, a route i'm going to expose something in a cloud, uh resource, i'm going to do something. What is the security, implementation. Implications, of that and that is maybe one of the most exciting things to me because we finally are beginning to see especially in our surveys. Security, has gone from well we spent about 20, of our time worried about it too in 2020. It's it's, 40 to 50, some of these surveys, so. That's one of those, that is that is one of the things i see a lot of excitement about when i talk to customers around the community is that that idea of it allows. Those cross-team. Conversations. To happen before, things go live. Saves a lot of pain and you're creating less debt going forward. So from our, recent, survey results. Um our respondents, are still still thinking about. Basic. Element, management. Challenges. Uh, at the edges, so availability. Health, performance. But they're also starting to talk about. Elements of application, traffic types. The tunnel state, provider, link stability, and security. Through the fabric, that. They're, considering, to be, critical. So. What do you think. As, tools providers. You know where we have traditionally. Been segmented. Into very discrete, functions what do you think we could do better. In the future. I'll start and joe. Obviously you still have to get the basics, right. That element management, still has to happen we don't get just a magical, point, and that goes away. Okay. On the other hand. If you think of what a company's, business. Unit, managers. Value, relative to it. It's not a server. It's not an mpls, link.
It's None of that stuff, it's the handful, of applications. They use, to run their business unit. If those applications, are running well. They're happy. If they're not they're not happy. One of the reasons, that if the cio. Comes from technology. Almost always from the application, side because that's what the business unit managers, see and care about. What that means for us. Is we have to make those applications. Run well. That's what people care about. But getting back to you know the conversation. Patrick was leading. That doesn't mean. You spend a golf of money on mpls. For applications, that don't need it so we know we have to give, better performance, to applications, to certain applications. And we can afford to do others he gave some examples. On a lower cost internet. But you can't do that without, tools. Tools to understand. What's happening, both in advance, as part of planning. If you're rolling out, an sd-wan. You should be doing an awful lot of planning. To make sure that you understand, what traffic, should go where, and then on an ongoing, basis so joey you've got to keep the basics. They don't go away. Okay, but more and more we're going to be focused, where the business unit managers, are and that's, you know very squarely. On applications. Yeah, once upon a time you know the network was king and i think we have, reluctantly. Come to realize that the application, is actually. Actually king but now and especially with, uh, customers who are, uh managing hybrid and that's pretty much everyone at this point it's a question of how much and everyone has grieved, over the fact that it is forever, it's not temporary. Um. Is that. There that idea that you had a rack, right and you plugged in power and you plugged in a network and the network was just a fundamental, service of the application, which all sat together in this neat little stack. And, so, that sort of, element-based. Management. Made sense because it was almost a one-to-one, relationship, between application, components. And, addresses, or ports that they sat on and you get load balancing, and the rest of it, and especially, with mpls, and the networks came before, again, you know tightly, controlled.
Uh. Not multi-path, connectivity. But, increasingly. The, that definition, of applications, now isn't even, well i deliver applications, it's we're in the business of service delivery. Right, and so now you have on-prem. Cloud. Increasingly. Sas i mean the one thing that we've learned in 2020, is sask makes things pretty handy. Um, and so, that, concept, of well do i have. Infrastructure. Elements and that's the basis of where i start i do discovery, and then i instrument, and i discover more and i instrument. Or. Are you really looking, at the behavior of applications. Are you looking at what user experience looks like it's almost an outside, in where you look at the traffic you look at the use. And then that drives, into the infrastructure, and identifies, those elements that have to be managed. So, um, how, has, uh, our, our covered. Emergency. This year. And this massive, shift of. Folks from office, to work from home. How has that factored, into. Monitoring. And the way that we think about. Network infrastructure. Joe i'm not the first person to say it. But. I think it's been well documented. That kovid. Has taken some trends. That would have taken, say a decade, to really take place. As collapsed, them into two or three years. Hold that thought for a second. I was working with a vendor a couple of weeks ago. We were going over some old, sd-wan. Slides. From back in 2013.. And in 2013. Sd-wan, was connectivity. Between, branch, offices. And the data center. There was this phrase. You know applications, are beginning to move to the cloud, that's how long ago 2013. Was. That vendor's. Current. Slide. Has all kinds of things around the edge of a network. Those things could be a branch office and a worker there. It could be that worker working from home, that worker working from any place, the iot. Yes the centralized, data center but a whole bunch of different clouds. So you now have this model, which we're heading to i'm not saying we're there, but we have a whole bunch of different, types of edges. From some iot. Device. To. A branch office. Trying to get to a variety. Of different, places. And the wide area network. And the all the attendant. Functionality. For security. Management. Optimization. Are in the middle of that. I would suggest, that kovid. Moved us a giant, step, forward, in that direction. In part because of the work from home, that you're talking about it's not just zoom meetings. But now even more people. Are outside the network perimeter. And need, certainly when connectivity. But again the security, the management, etc, so i think it's it's really driven home. That we're fundamentally. Going to a point, where the wide area network. Connects, a whole variety, of different types of edges. With different, types of requirements. And management. Now which is always a second thought, that's not styling for anybody, it's always a second thought, upon the developers. And people adopting, the technology. Management now is going to take a look at that model. Try not to get too scared, because it's a very, demanding. Complex. Model. But say okay, what does this mean in terms of how do i do the element, management, that i need, in that kind of a situation. But then how do i pull it all together. In ways that allow me, to do intelligent, things around security, qos.
Supporting, Business obligations. So i think covet has changed, the initial, stages, of some very important conversations. So in in conversations, with our own, cio. One of the things that she has called out is that. Um. Moving, employees, out of the office and moving them. Into residential, networks, has actually given her time to catch up on some of the projects. In the, core network. And so she's been able to accelerate. Some of those which i think is interesting. It introduces, a separate set of challenges, around trying to support. Those workers, uh out at the edge. And so. Um. In reviewing, uh the results, of our. A recent, sd-wan. Survey. Um. If if there was any surprising, finding, it's that. The implementation. Of projects. Has. Slowed down temporarily, but there's still very strong interest. In executing, those projects, and as you pointed out jim, being able to accelerate. The adoption. Of, new infrastructure. So, i'd like to, i'd like to remind the folks that are. Connected, to this session, that. They'll be receiving, a copy of the results. Of our sd-wan, survey. And there will be an interactive. Q a session. With all the participants. Here, and some of the. Product management, folks. From our network, management. Product management, team. On the q a. To answer your questions, about, sd-wan. Any final thoughts jim. Joe for people. Organizations. That are really just beginning, their journey into sd-wan. I know this is going to sound simple. But you really need to nail down what problem you're trying to solve. Okay because again. 60, plus offerings. And they don't all solve the exact same problems. And they have a lot of different characteristics. So if you don't know what problem you're trying to solve it can take you a long time to work your way through that. So the more you know confident, you are. That yes number one issue is, added security, and number one issue is better application, performance. I'm not saying you do one at the entire, exclusion, of the other but what's relatively, important to you and then seek out vendors, who are known for those particular, areas, you'll get you'll get to the promised land an awful lot faster. And, a lot safer. And patrick, you always have, final thoughts. Well be pretty simple in this case one, uh sullivan's customers are doing a lot increasingly, with sd-wan. So swing by the user community which is the black.com. Uh you can search right from the box and take a look at some of those conversations, they're open to everyone and then join, you know, ask questions to people who are already implementing, sd-wan, if you're curious about, some of the best practices. And then the other thing of course is that. Solarwinds has added a number of additional sd-wan. Capabilities, to its products and continues, to add new features all the time so if you haven't upgraded, a while, make sure you get upgraded to the latest release of the orion platform, thanks patrick, and thanks jim for joining us and uh please, join us in the, q a the interactive q a in the product room, after the, session.